Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Back to school fool

So, yesterday I completed my registration to start language classes at La Sorbonne. My good friend Sam told me how successful her classes were there when she first arrived on French soil without a lick of the native language under her belt. So, when I decided to shift my focus from job-searching to French-learning, I took her recommendation (as a now-fluent French-speaker) and enrolled in a part-time course. The place was buzzing with students when I arrived and found the line I was supposed to stand in to get my class assignment. I'd recently spent an entire day going between the school's two buildings near the Pantheon to interview, pick out my course, get my student ID and pay, so I was hoping this trip would be short and sweet. Finding that I was only the fifth person in line to get my registration card (which is unusual for "S-Z" names) gave me hope, but not for very long. When the guy handed me my card, I saw that the class time they chose for me was just not going to work - I mean, seriously who wants to go to class right, smack-dab in the middle of the lunch-hour from 12 to 2pm? I knew if I ended up in that class, I'd put off my first daily meal until afterwards and would be counting the seconds before class was dismissed to grab some grub.

So, despite the 20-person line to change schedules (and my slight fear of being told no and having to argue in French with someone), I stuck it out for 45 minutes, got to the counter, and made up a lie. I knew that wanting to change my class time because I didn't want to be hungry all day was just not going to fly with this French government employee behind the counter; I mean, that'd be like taking aim at an antelope without any ammunition loaded - totally for naught. After explaining that my [imaginary] job requires me to pick up kids from school at 2pm everyday and asking to be placed in the 10am-12pm class, she shook her head, looked at me with raised eyebrows and said it wouldn't be possible, then offered me the 8-10am class. Ugh. I had totally seen that coming, but I wasn't ready to accept a 6:30 am alarm clock just yet, so I decided to push her to at least make a phone call (because that's what I saw everyone else was doing to squeeze students into "full" classes). She called, looked at me and shook her head (bad news), then asked me if I was an au pair. I told her I wasn't, but she still offered me a special class for au pairs that meets for three hours a day, Monday through Friday, except Wednesday (since au pairs usually work all day Wednesday). I told her no, made up another lie (that I can't recall right now - yeah, the lies were starting to snowball) and kept pushing her to find me a spot in a 10 am class. A few minutes later, she hung up the phone, scribbled something on a card and told me she was able to find one spot in a 10 am class to put me in. Score! I was elated, proud and a little smug at what I had just pulled off in French. It dawned on me that all of the practice I've had with persistence at the prefecture was totally paying off, and a little twinge of acceptance came over me as I strolled down the street past the Pantheon.

Besides getting the class time I wanted, I found out today - my first day of class - that my French teacher is the bomb! I was a little happy to see that the younger French teacher for the earlier class wasn't also going to be our teacher, and instead the much older French woman was going to be giving us our lessons. I don't know, but there's something about an older, wiser-looking, French woman teaching me French that makes me feel like I'm getting a more authentic learning experience. From the beginning to the end of class, my attention was kept (except for a few times when I got distracted by and wanted to throw my pen at the loudmouth girl in the front row who kept blurting out answers even when the teacher was calling on someone else) and I could almost feel the wrinkles being formed in my brain. It was about the time that she asked us to repeat "On est à Paris pour ameliorer le français, pas pour apprendre!" ("We're in Paris to improve our French, not to learn it!") that I realized changing my class was the most shrewd and constructive move I've made since arriving in Paris. (In fact, I'm thinking of running for president with my keen sense of foresight.)

I had fun picking out school supplies and buying books after class with a girl from California, and I'm excited (yes, because I'm nerdy) about going to my biweekly pronunciation labs. I think this school thing is definitely going to kick my stagnation in the arse, I just need to learn how to suppress those all too familiar feelings of procrastination when it comes to doing my homework.

19 comments:

Crystal said...

bon courage avec tes cours! Est-ce que je te verrai ce samedi soir chez Sam?

Bisous,

Une autre anglophone en France

kylie said...

if you figure out how to kick stagnation in the arse, make sure to pass the tip on to the rest of us.

Evolutionary Revolutionary said...

HAHA! I have that girl in my class too! I want to ask her to change into another class! She's making us look bad!

I'm glad your class is such a success!

Candy said...

yay! i am so happy for you! counting down till christmas when we can see you both!! :)

misplaced texan said...

crystal - yep, je serai chez Sam ce samedi! A bientot!

kylie - will do...I'll keep you posted on how "unstagnated" I get from taking this class.

juliet - yeah, the girl in our class only makes herself look bad, but it's almost at the point where she talks over the teacher...it's so annoying!

Candy - We can hardly wait to see y'all, too!!!

Fabulously Broke said...

A) That is so cool that you're in France learning French

B) HAH! French administration sucks but it sounds like you've got it DOWN on getting what you want. Great job!

Ksam said...

Yay!!! I am so happy for you! And very proud that you have learned the most important rule for living in France - no matter what they tell you, "impossible n'est pas français" !!

Josephine said...

As they say in America, (regarding your procrastination of homework)...just get 'er done! :)

Love, Mum

PS: That's my persistent girl...language is no barrier to getting what she wants!!!

Charles said...

I'm an Anglophone who lived in Paris from 02-04 and took language courses at the Sorbonne. Those classes, plus spending most of my time with French people, ended up with with people thinking I was French after about a year. Not kidding. Study hard, play hard, enjoy your time there! It will stick with throughout your life.

A+
Charles

ellie said...

Love your blog and links. Thanks! Paris is still there when I read about it and people's adventures like you.

misplaced texan said...

FB - I'm getting there, I think, but everyday I find some other grossly backwards way of doing things here and I'm astounded. But, I'm hoping soon my astonishment will turn into apathy.

ksam - Those are wise words you speak, indeed!

Mum - LOL. Thanks. I'm gettin' 'er done good.

Charles - Thanks loads for the encouragement. I'm optimistic about my progress and I'm so glad I found these classes.

ellie - Thank YOU! Paris is definitely still here, and I presume it always will be, so come back soon! :)

Starman said...

I don't want to be a spoil sport, but couldn't you have eaten BEFORE the 12-2 class?

misplaced texan said...

Starman - Yeah, I totally could've eaten before that if I wasn't too lazy to make anything more than coffee for breakfast. I know I would have slept in until 9:30 or 10 everyday and would need to leave my place by 11:15 to be on time. I definitely have issues with procrastination and bouts of laziness that tend to consume my morning routine, so having an earlier class motivates me a bit. Thanks for your comment!

Anonymous said...

please excuse my 'anonymous'tag.. i haven't registered on blogger/google as of yet, but you never know!

i'm a gal from Toronto hasn't who loves Paris and lurks on blog sites, living vicariously through the brave lasses who choose to change their lives by picking up and jetting off to the most beautiful city in the world!

i just wanted to say congrats on navigating the french education system!! i also think it's great that you're able to really dedicate significant time and energy into learning french. i love Paris and i've visited often, but i've never had to live in a foreign country for an extended period of time - so, my hat's off to ya!

i did live in Montreal for 4 years and found my french really improved the more i practiced and surrounded myself with french speaking friends. of course, moving to france from the US is waaaaay different than moving to quebec from ontario, but i just wanted to let you know that i can relate and that i really enjoy your blog.

i will be in paris for a week in early November and will think of you learning away when i pass le sorbonne!! good luck with everything and know that there are folks out there rootin' for you!

best,
red

theweirdanna said...

Hi I was researching Paris and language study and stumbled across your site. Was wondering if it is possible to just enrol in a French language programme of sorts, like in a university, in a public institution that isn't Alliance Francaise? Would appreciate any help or advice. Thanks!

The Bold Soul said...

I'd love to know more about the French classes at the Sorbonne. As a new spouse of a French citizen, I will need to take some formal classes to améliorer my skills to keep the immigration guys happy, and I wasn't thrilled with the free classes at the Croix Rouge that I was taking last spring. Would you be able to email me with some info? lthwriter@gmail.com Thanks!

misplaced texan said...

theweirdanna: I know that many of the students at La Sorbonne (in my class) are taking the 20-hour/week course that allows them to obtain a student visa. From what I gather, you must be enrolled in the "F1" course that has 2 hours of language classes, 1 hour of phonetic and 1 hour of French civilization classes per week. Each course is a semester/season long. Check out their website for more information: http://www.ccfs-sorbonne.fr/Apprendre-le-francais.html?session=1&annee=56&diplom=NR&visa=NR&niveau=NR&langue_contexte=fr

lulu said...

AH! I am so proud of you for being so persistent! You must have been glowing after that!!! IT is such a difference between american acceptance and French resistance. Doesn't it feel good to beat them at their own game?

Anonymous said...

so I did 2 semesters at the sorbonne, and I definitely don't reccomend it. Besides, the 12 - 2 is the best spot, because you can schedule phonetics in the morning and then walk through luxembourg to get to the estrapade campus. I'm at the institut catholique now, doing a prepa... I find it more serious than the sorbonne. In any case, if you have classes before 12 at the estrapade campus, and you see the little bald guy at the entrance, tell him his favorite american artist said hi....